Thursday, September 8, 2011

Comic Review: Trickster

I feel like I had seen or heard about this anthology before I found it at the local library, possibly as part of the Diversity Challenge since it's a collection of Native American tales and (presumably) all or nearly all of the storytellers who contributed the tales are at least part Native American themselves. There are too many contributors to list them all here but I assume you can find them all somewhere online (Amazon doesn't list them and I forgot to take a picture of the table of contents which listed all of them), I can probably track it down if anyone wants me to. 

Trickster Edited by Matt Dembicki
Summary: A comic book anthology featuring all kinds of myths and legends from various Native North American cultures.

The Good: A note in the back of the book says that, as far as the editor can tell, this is the first collection of Native American tales in comic form which seems like a shame, especially considering just how important Native Americans have been in American history*. All of the stories were fairly short, making it easy to pick up and read a story or two when there's not a lot of time, and each story seemed well paced and, as odd as it sounds when talking about mythology, logical. There were barely, if any, deus ex machina endings (many felt like traditional European fairy tales where it's the cleverness of the protagonist or supporting character that saves the day) or other strange cop-outs that would leave the reader feeling dissatisfied. That's more than what many of the world's mythologies can say and does make this feel like a stronger work.   

The Bad: Since the stories come from a variety of groups living all over North America there were a lot of overlapping characters which seemed more like a bad thing than a good one. Having some reoccurring characters (such as Coyote) appear in neighboring stories with completely different personalities was really jarring and immediately makes you prefer one story over another, something I'm sure the editor didn't mean to do. It was also strange to see how the tone could completely switch between stories as well which makes me think I would have enjoyed this story a bit more if it had been edited slightly differently to flow smoother.    

The Art: In a page in the back of the book that says how this project came together, Dembicki mentions that all the storytellers involved in this work chose the artist (I believe from a group of people who had said they were interested in the project) so the art styles were all intention. There's a real range of art styles, from more sketchy ones to ones that wouldn't look out of place as a Saturday morning cartoon. None of the styles could be called realistic, although some were certainly more so than others, and unfortunately I only liked a handful or less of them. There wasn't anything bad or wrong about the styles, some of the more cartoony ones irritated me however, but I simply wasn't drawn in by the art and that's half of a comic, that's not a good thing. 

In the end, I didn't enjoy this anthology as much as I had hoped (anthologies in general seem to be very hit or miss with me, emphasis on the miss) is it was aimed at a younger audience than I expected, found the tone a bit jarring and just wasn't interested in many of the stories. I do think this book would be better shelved in the kid's room comic book area instead of the teen comic book area since I think that elementary school kids, the ones who haven't gotten tired of hearing how Thanksgiving happened over and over, would enjoy this more than someone closer to my age would.  

*just in case you guys hadn't picked up on it, yes I live in the US so therefore I think learning about the culture that was here before the current mish-mash is pretty important.